Meet the James Beard Foundation Outstanding Baker Semifinalists: Mark Furstenberg
After working as a consultant for several years, artisan bread baker Mark Furstenberg decided to return to retail baking at the age of 74 and start a neighborhood retail bakery, Bread Furst, which opened its doors in Washington, D.C., in April 2014.
Previously, Furstenberg had owned Marvelous Market, which he opened in 1990. He was the first baker in Washington to offer traditional European breads. Customers would stand in lines that extended down the street for the novelty and quality of his breads. Following that, he opened The BreadLine, a bread-based restaurant that won him nominations from the James Beard Foundation as best chef in the Mid-Atlantic, ratings as a top restaurant in America by Zagat, and selection as one of the Washington Post’s favorite spots.
Mark Furstenberg went on to be a consultant and help open Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery, Bien Cuit in Brooklyn, and helped to develop the bread program for the Napa Valley campus of the Culinary Institute of America. But his heart led him back to owning his own bakery, Bread Furst.
“And that’s where I am, overseeing that neighborhood bakery. I still love making a product. I am excited about our whole grain breads that are really pretty popular, and I love it that we bake baguettes four times a day so that they are fresh nearly all the time. Our pastries are traditional American, rustic pies and good cakes, really wonderful croissants and cookies and brownies and many other sweet foods. And our food is seasonal, much of it vegetarian, local, Mediterranean in character, and I think it’s good.”
Furstenberg admits that he loves “at least just as much” how the bakery has been embraced by the neighborhood. “There is literally no day in which someone doesn’t say to me, “Thank you for doing this.” Or, “You have done something wonderful for the neighborhood.” Those sentiments make me feel as if I have made a real contribution. Finally, I love the children, the streams of children who come to the bakery and taste something. I think all the time that I have done something wonderful for these children, and this bakery will become a part of their lives that will never entirely leave them.”
Mark Furstenberg is a multiple-time semifinalist and nominee for the James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Baker award.